I’m going to tell you some jokes.

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

No! Not those kind of jokes.

A bear walks into a bar. [insert long pause] “I’ll have a pint of shandy please”

Barwoman: “Why the big paws?”

Not so funny. Why? Because it’s a play on words. It really only works if I tell you the joke using my mouth rather than my keyboard.

Here are some more jokes:

A 59 year old grey haired female Senior Civil Servant walks into a meeting in with other senior leaders and one of the men in the room says “Are you here to take the minutes?”

A 23 year old woman of colour gets a promotion to the grade below Senior Civil Service and a male colleague gives her some advice “When you start your new job, don’t be surprised if other people at your grade are a lot better than you”

Now these are real jokes. I can’t say I laughed when my coaching clients told me them, but sometimes all you can do is laugh at the sheer ridiculousness. But it really is a joke that these things still occur. They are real life examples from May and June 2021. My coaching clients have given me permission to share these tiny snippets of our conversations. But the sad reality is that by posting this on the internet, it wouldn’t threaten the confidentiality of my coaching conversations anyway. These types of conversations are still all too common, and there will be countless women in across countless workplaces experiencing these things on a daily basis.

One of the things we talk about is how to respond to such casual everyday racist, sexist, ageist ‘questions’ and pieces of ‘advice’. Does one let it wash over? Like water off a duck’s back this is his problem, not mine. Or does one call people out for their ill considered dints. The problem is that letting them go uncalled is a passive permission giving. A passive agreement that young people aren’t equipped to have leadership roles, or that women are just there to support men in their important leadership responsibilities.

So the alternative option is to call people out on their behaviour. This can certainly make people stop and think. But what is the personal cost to this? Bracing yourself to call out sexist /ageist /other-ist comments before each meeting is tiring. As is constantly being angry with the injustices in the world. It’s more than that though, it diverts energy from your actual focus (being in the meeting in the leadership role you are in). So firstly, you are perceived as a note taker because you’re the only woman in the room, then you’re perceived as an angry woman because you object to being assumed to be something you’re not (again), then there’s every chance you’re perceived as an ineffective leader because you (‘re a woman and) have got distracted from your meeting objectives by the aforementioned.

There are of course upsides to calling people out on their inappropriate comments. Joan Halifax, an inspirational writer on such things, calls it moral outrage. I love that phrase. It so neatly sums it up. This moral outrage or anger can be directed at combatting the injustices in the world, to take a stand, to make people think about what comes out of their mouths.

Whatever route we take, it’s important to be able to process and make sense of these experiences. We need to ensure we are able to regulate our emotions so that they become helpful rather than unhelpful, that they serve us and those around us. To help you with finding ways to connect in with and process our ‘stuff’, I offer Zest Community events, that are open to all:

  • 1-to-1 half hour session introducing Embodied Decision Making. Book here: https://calendly.com/anna-zest/30min
  • Mindfulness drop in. Every Wednesday (mostly! – I will be starting this back up on 14th July)

Click here to drop-in via Zoom

Meeting ID: 820 1143 2812, Passcode: 327550

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